Was this you during the first few weeks of starting your church’s online presence in mid-to-late March? Were you ecstatic that your online viewership far exceeded your average, in-person worship attendance?
Now that most churches have settled into how they deliver Sunday morning worship during the pandemic, the realization has set in that an increase in viewers no longer determines the number of people who are actually engaged by your ministry.
Why is it essential to engage your audience? Because you want them to feel a part of the worship experience; to be a true participant, not simply a remote spectator. And, they want that, too.
You want to entice them to join the body of Christ and, ultimately, to choose to join your church as an active member. For this to happen, you need to show these casual observers that you understand what they’re going through during these difficult times. By providing valuable insights into what we’re all going through right now, and sharing information on how best to deal with it, more than likely they’ll continue to view your service on a weekly basis.
Consider addressing these questions with them:
- How might this church service reach out to new worshippers and not just our regular congregation members?
- During this pandemic, what is our church doing for the community that might attract and engage new worshippers as participants?
- What new events or services might engage these people beyond Sunday service, such as book club or Bible study meetings or a lecture series via Zoom?
These are great questions, and there are many more to ask, but let’s go back to our original one: How can we convert online viewership to engagement?
Consider trying the following:
- Take your online presence to LIVE mode (Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube, or live stream from your website). This allows you to invite your participants into back-and-forth exchanges during the worship experience. You can also post recordings to social media channels after your service has been live-streamed.
- Have members of your congregation hold ‘watch parties’ via Facebook. This encourages camaraderie and allows for spirited dialogue via chat with friends.
- Ask unexpected questions, such as ‘What is your ‘go-to’ scripture?’ Or, ask questions around your sermon. This feels like in-person worship and actively engages your participants.
- Show your good works. Use stories, videos and pictures of your members and staff serving the community, and promote how money, food and volunteer time benefits where you live.
- Create online communities (e.g. youth, seniors, married couples, new members).
- Tease your upcoming worship service by giving a sneak peek of your sermon title, music selection, or scripture passage that you’ll be using to get them excited about tuning in on Sunday.
- Have several calls-to-action (CTA) by reminding new worshippers to visit your frequently updated website and offering free incentives (e.g. downloadable resources, e-books, online devotions, etc.).
- Promote ways for them to give via SMS texting. This can be very effective for your annual and capital campaigns. It encourages them to share in your ministry vision financially.
- Officially invite new people into Discipleship and to be a welcomed member of your church family.
For a printable handout of these suggestions, click here.
Other ways to promote engagement:
- Create a follow-up team dedicated to quickly replying to chats and emails.
- Refrain from using acronyms and jargon that only church members will know; it’s alienating to new worshippers who will not feel a part of the group.
- Have a shepherding group (e.g. elders, deacons, etc.) encourage and pray with new people to demonstrate virtual pastoral care and spiritual support.
- Don’t forget to follow up with new people so they know they are valued and welcome. This could take the form of a virtual ‘coffee klatch’ after service where members and newcomers get to know each other better.
I leave you with this; to have engagement, you must consider every online viewer as a favored guest or a family member entering your home. By practicing the Golden Rule ‘Treat others as you would want to be treated,’ you are inviting them into God’s space virtually. And, you never know if you are entertaining an angel.
With nearly two decades of experience in business banking, commercial lending, investment management and client service, Belinda King leads the DCEF Advisors team. Besides working directly with congregations in her assigned zones, she relates to Regional Ministers, other Disciples of Christ ministers, denominational Bishops, and a host of church partners. Belinda holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration & Labor Relations from Indiana University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan. She also holds the FINRA Series 6 and 63 licenses. Belinda resides in Fishers, IN with her husband, Rod, and their children Brittany, Gregory and Kyra.
For 137 years, DCEF has offered mission-driven building and capital planning services to congregations and organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Together with our investors and partners, we are Disciples helping Disciples.